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iTunes U Making Impact at Duke
Durham, N.C. - Last Wednesday, 95 students in French 76: Advanced Intermediate French took an oral exam using two new technologies that are enhancing the academic environment at Duke and a handful of other college campuses: the 5th generation (video) iPod and iTunes U.
French 76 is one of 11 spring semester courses engaging in a pilot program with iTunes U, a web-based tool used by faculty and students to share digital content, such as audio, video and images.
"Once the content is loaded on their iPods via iTunes U -- which takes just minutes -- students can watch video clips and listen to text and music multiple times, anywhere they want," said Deb Reisinger, acting director of Duke's French Language Program, who is coordinating French 76. "This kind of language reinforcement is a fantastic pedagogical tool that has the added bonus of integrating cultural and linguistic content."
Duke is one of six universities -- including Brown, Stanford, the University of Michigan, the Missouri School of Journalism and the University of Wisconsin-Madison -- working directly with Apple Computer to test iTunes U in an academic setting.
"We have used our feedback from faculty and students to work with Apple to shape this product into one that will be well received by larger numbers of faculty at Duke and other universities," said Lynne O'Brien, director of Duke's Center for Instructional Technology (CIT).
Just introduced by Apple in January, the iTunes U program was born out of Duke's pioneering efforts with the Duke Digital Initiative (DDI), in addition to pilot programs at five other universities. Duke has seen substantial growth in the use of digital content in classrooms over the past year, placing an increased demand to make digital audio, video and images readily available to students, especially via download to portable computing devices such as the iPod. A total of 270 students and 15 faculty are testing iTunes U -- still considered to be in "beta" form -- at Duke this semester.
Minor shortcomings of iTunes U discovered so far include the lack of a batch upload feature for disciplines where there are multiple files to upload, such as hundreds of tracks for language textbook audio. The benefits include the ability for faculty to organize content in a way that's easier for faculty and students to navigate. Most current devices provide only a single long list, with files from different media mixed together. However, iTunes U tool creates different tabs for audio, video and other media, which faculty say provides better access and organization.
"I find it very convenient because I do a lot of podcasting in my courses, and I have my students use iTunes anyways to subscribe to the podcast," said Richard Lucic, associate chair of Computer Science. One of the first Duke faculty to test an early version of iTunes U last fall, Lucic is again using it in his courses this spring. "There are a lot of ways we could distribute content, but iTunes U is just a very convenient way to share the information students create and I create. It gives students an easy way to login and upload their content."
Meredith Tenison, a senior public policy and linguistics major, was a student in Lucic's ISIS 100: Perspectives on Information Science and Information Studies course last fall. "We were using iTunes U for our class page and also for podcasting; we would directly upload podcasts and audio reports," she said, adding that the product was pretty self-explanatory. "It's extremely user friendly."
According to O'Brien, DDI has focused its efforts for the past two years on academic applications of technology, with iTunes U experimentation centered around a small number of classes to see how well it meets academic needs. "When we finish our academic pilot of iTunes U, we will plan for the development of other types of content," she said. One possibility is using the device to make digital content available to the entire university community and the public, not just to students and faculty in particular courses.
In addition, staff with CIT and Duke's Office of Information Technology are working to further support use of the 1,750 iPods distributed during the current 2005-06 academic year, as well as the growing number of other digital audio and video tools used through the DDI, including iTunesU.
"It's got a lot more potential than we're currently using," Lucic said. "I notice Stanford makes a whole lot of stuff available to everybody. There might be more or new things we haven't gotten to yet because our testing is not yet complete."
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